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Posts published in October 2010

Obama at Portland, this time

Obama Kitzhaber
President Barack Obama and former Governor John Kitzhaber at Portland/Kitzhaber campaign

Barack Obama the candidate had it two years ago when he visited Oregon, and he still has it - his campaigning orating skills are undiminished. His speech at Portland tonight, arranged principally to help Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber, was a solid rabble-rouser, which had to be exactly what the Oregon Democrats wanted.

The bulk of his talk was national in scope, making the national Democratic pitch, solidly partisan. But that's what Democrats have needed, broadly beyond Kitzhaber's own close campaign. Energizing the base is what Democrats need, and an event like this could send some electricity through the Portland Democratic community.

Obama's speech included some familiar elements, like the bit about Republicans driving the car into the ditch. Some of the bits and pieces were a little less known, as when he said about Republicans that "the basis of their campaign is amnesia." The speech was a collection of pieces, but it built powerfully toward the end.

He had some Oregon-specific material too. He did the classic politician bit (treated as a joke), about having a friend who was a Ducks fan and a brother-in-law coaching the Beavers, and saying he liked them both. He did a solid pitch for Kitzhaber - "Let's talk about this governor's race for a second. This should not be a difficult choice" - and ran through a number of specifics about Kitzhaber.

For his part, Kitzhaber mainly delivered a short campaign talk and then an introduction of Obama. That was a little more than just a pro forma introduction, though; he laced in specific praise about economic and health care parts of the Obama record, and expressed his support for them. He backed away from nothing.

(The congressional presence was, mostly. Both senators were there, and two House members, David Wu and Earl Blumenauer. A third Democrat whose district was close by but still a little further out, Kurt Schrader, apparently wasn't there; was that a deliberate move tactically, or just a matter of, it wasn't his district? The event was held within Bluemnauer's district, and Wu's was only about a mile away.)

It was well executed. It felt in all like an effort to bring several Democratic pieces together, with the hope significant juice flows as a result. Maybe it will.

State storage

Would love to hear Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter's justification - and as chairman and a voting member of the state Land Board, he is directly involved - in this:

A purchase and business venture by the state of Idaho, unveiled by David Frazier's Boise Guardian web site. Assuming the data is correct, it means the state of Idaho has gotten into the storage business in competition with a number of local private businesses.

Engaged in by the unanimously conservative, Republican, small-government, pro-private enterprise members of the Idaho state land board.

UPDATE Correcting the name of the web site (Boise Guardian), per a note from Frazier. Who also notes this: "FYI, guv and AG spokesmouths are all telling me it is the DUTY of the land board to maximize the return on investment and if that means getting into the retail storage business, so be it. It appears to be totally legal, but certainly not a good move from the standpoint of business owners or local governments that lose the tax revenues."

Someone else’s prosperity

We shouldn't let the Concerned Taxpayers of America go without pointing out in the involvement in another Northwest congressional race of Americans for Prosperity.

Americans for Prosperity is, one detailed study says, "the third largest recipient of funding from the Koch Family Foundations, behind the Cato Institute and the George Mason University Foundation. Before 2003, when the AFP was still named the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, it received $18,460,912 in funding. 84% of that funding came from the Koch Family Foundations ($12,906,712) and the Scaife Family Foundations ($2,510,000). Koch Family Foundations is funded by Koch Industries. According to Forbes, Koch Industries is the second largest privately-held company, and the largest privately owned energy company, in the United States. Koch industries has made its money in the oil business, primarily oil refining. Presently, it holds stakes in pipelines, refineries, fertilizer, forest products, and chemical technology."

Big money from major national corporations, being dumped in massive fashion into the Washington 3rd House district race - to the campaign of Republican Jaime Herrera. (Her opponent is Democrat Denny Heck.)

The Horse's Ass blog points out the Prosperity group is "contributing $5,000 directly to her campaign, and spending at least another $282,000 ... attacking her Democratic opponent, Denny Heck. It is the ultimate insult to WA-03 voters; first the New York-based Kochs make millions closing local mills and outsourcing jobs, and now they’re spending a portion of their profits to purchase themselves another congresswoman. You know… the free market at work."

As a side note, little of any of this would matter if American voters did the single smartest and simplest thing they could do: Totally ignore all political advertising. But until they do, or until some meaningful reform from the current insanity takes place, elections may be simply up for auction.

All those concerned taxpayers

Remember the Concerned Taxpayers of America, the group running the basically anonymous slimy television spots against Representative Peter DeFazio? The guys whose identity DeFazio tried to find out by personally walking over their headquarters (and getting stonewalled, on video)?

The Washington Post pulled the paperwork that now establishes who this broad-based alliance of concerned American taxpayers, who have been pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into negative TV spots in Oregon's 4th district, actually are:

Two guys. The owner of Daniel G. Schuster Inc., which operated a concrete company, and spent $300,000; and Robert Mercer, a hedge fund manager from New York, who spent $200,000.

Just thought the people of Oregon's 4th would like to know.

We got ours

ballot
The ballot has arrived

We see via Facebook reports from some people in Oregon who've not yet gotten their ballots. We'll hope those arrive soon.

Ours in fact have arrived in the mail. (A pitch: Vote by mail is more than just convenient. It allows for reflective and researched decisions. Not that everyone will avail themselves of that option, but it at least allows for it more than standing in a booth where you have to make your decisions right now.)

Ours will be back in the voting box later today or tomorrow at the latest. How about yours?

Upending a local structure?

Context. Context. Where it hit some people's attention was in the peculiar one-sentence press release from the Newberg, Oregon, chamber of commerce: A member of the government affairs committee had been expelled. Peculiar, but would it matter to anyone but the chamber?

If you get more than that one sentence, a big ball of twine starts to unravel. As it happens, the McMinnville News Register was on to the story days before the expulsion, and last weekend ran a big, and fascinating, article about the politics behind it.

Briefly, the expellee was Yamhill County Commissioner Leslie Lewis, a long-time major figure in county politics (years ago she rose to leadership in the state legislature) - and a key supporter this year of commission candidate Mary Starrett, a very conservative (former Constitution Party candidate) who is trying to unseat incumbent Mary Stern, who has a good deal of Democratic support. The Newberg chamber is a conservative group (that city probably will be Starrett's major base in the election), but at a recent meeting there, Lewis crossed a line.

From the News-Register: "Yamhill County Commissioner Leslie Lewis is under criminal investigation by the state Department of Justice for allegedly secretly videotaping one or more candidates during private Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce endorsement interviews in Newberg and then passing that tape on to others. The taping was allegedly done in April, but just came to light with the posting of a heavily edited excerpt from Commissioner Mary Stern's endorsement interview on YouTube and a conservative Republican website."

Now the state attorney general's office is investigating in what is described as a criminal investigation. Protesters today called on Lewis to resign. (Democratic protesters, to be sure, but they'd never had a basis for such a demand before.) And Lewis' base, the heart of the Newberg business community - the mayor among others is on the panel - has turned on her.

A local matter to a considerable degree. But we wouldn't be surprised if, two or four years from now, this incident wound up having some real structural impact on the politics of this county of almost 100,000.

This week in the Digests

digest
weekly Digest

Yes, it's nearing the end of campaign season, and the economy is still in the tank. Those facts were reflected in this week's Digests, but so was a lot else.

Some of the highlights, for example, from the Idaho edition: "Negotiations yield health care trust; More comment on water quality plan; UI research outpost at Post Falls approved." Not that these made big headlines elsewhere. (We approach "the narrative" in a different way.) From Washington: "New ferry launches; More support on Alaskan Way? Corrections union okays COLA forbearance." A little off the beaten path.

As a reminder: We're now publishing weekly editions of the Public Affairs Digests - for Idaho, Washington and Oregon - moving from a monthly to a weekly rundown of what's happening. And we're taking it all-electronic: The print edition will be moving to e-mail.

That means we can include more information, and get it out a lot faster: The weekly Digests will be in your in-box first thing Monday morning. If you subscribe, of course: That's $59 a year, for 50 issues and the yearbook. Yes, including the yearbook. The Idaho Yearbook, which we published for years up to 2002, will return early in 2011 - in printed book form - and Digest subscribers get it for free with their subscription. And the Oregon and Washington yearbooks will be coming out at the same time.

If you'd like to take a look at one of the new weekly Digests, here's a link to the Idaho edition, to the Oregon edition and to the Washington edition. If you'd like to subscribe, here are the links (through to PayPal) for Idaho, for Oregon and for Washington.

Portage

Interesting perspective piece out from the Associated Press about the Port of Lewiston, the most inland U.S. port on the Pacific Coast, and one of Idaho's significant links to shippers to points west.

The article's most immediate point was that shipping at the port is down, which is what you might expect given the depressed economy. (Other western ports, including such as Portland with which Lewiston works significantly, are down somewhat too.)

But the larger point in the article has to do with what looks like important structural changes that may change the port's role in years to come. Some shippers are moving toward trucking, it said; others are realigning their approaches now that fewer ships, on less frequent schedules, are making their way so far inland.

Comparing biz

Not that we put a lot of stock in all those many surveys that show which states are good for various things - business? raising kids? retirement? whatever - but this one, coming as it does near the close of a campaign season revolving heavily around the economy, might be worth a quick interstate look.

Forbes magazine released its annual listing of the 50 states ranked according to business favorability. All three Northwest states did pretty well.

Washington came in 5th, from 2nd last year. Oregon was 6th, up from 10th a year ago. And Idaho dropped a spot from 11 to 12.

Purple passion: The close congressionals

close
The close districts (in purple); projected D blue, projected R red

Usually, there aren't as many congressional districts in serious play as there are this year, and that's true in the Northwest as well as elsewhere. Of the Northwest's 16 U.S. House districts, five to seven can be realistically considered competitive, more than usual. We'll rank them here from the basis of most like to turn over in party control.

Most of the region's districts are, as usual, unlikely to change hands, or change member of congress. Only one Northwest House seat is open - the Washington 3rd, vacated by Democrat Brian Baird; in the remaining 15, incumbents are running again, and even in a year like this, beating an incumbent isn't easy.

Both parties have safe seats. Among Democrats, those would include the Washington 1st (Jay Inslee), 6th (Norm Dicks) and 7th (Jim McDermott), and the Oregon 3rd (Earl Blumenauer) and 4th (Peter DeFazio). Among Republicans, those would include the Washington 4th (Doc Hastings) and 5th (Cathy McMorris-Rodgers), the Oregon 2nd (Greg Walden) and the Idaho 2nd (Mike Simpson). Yes, a pile of money is being dumped into the Oregon 4th on behalf of an - can we say eccentric as a a diplomatic term? - eccentric candidate, but we suspect it'll be wasted because DeFazio is thoroughly entrenched there.

Two other districts look strongly likely for incumbent re-election but bear watching - we won't put them away just yet. One is the Washington 9th, where Democrat Adam Smith has been winning strongly for a decade but where recent polling has given him mediocre numbers against someone who should be a minor candidate. It's not enough to suggest Smith is on the edge, but enough the it should send his campaign people scrambling to make sure of their ground. The Oregon 1st is a slightly different case, where Democrat David Wu seems about as secure as usual (he too has been winning here for a decade). But Wu has a stronger and more aggressive opponent than usual in Republican Rob Cornilles. (You see his signs thick, across much of the district.) By all conventional measures Wu seems in decent shape; that could change if this turns into a truly unconventional election.

Those 11 races feel, at least for now, like reasonably safe calls. The remaining five are the races that given you some pause when it comes to predictions. And if you're a partisan, these are the Northwest House races that should be occupying your attention. (more…)